Capsid bugs

Capsid bugs can spoil the appearance of plants by giving the foliage a tattered and distorted appearance and causing flower buds to abort. Apple capsid can damage developing fruits.

Capsid damage on artichoke. Credit: RHS/Simon Garbutt.

Capsid damage on artichoke. Credit: RHS/Simon Garbutt.

Quick facts

Common name: Capsid bugs
Scientific name: Various species, mainly Lygocoris pabulinus and Lygus rugulipennis and apple capsid,  Plesiocoris rugicollis
Plants affected: Many, including apples, beans, Caryopteris, Chrysanthemum, Clematis, Dahlia, Forsythia, Fuchsia, HydrangeaPhygelius, potatoes, roses and Salvia
Main symptoms: Leaves develop with many small holes. Flowers may be distorted or absent
Most active: May-August

What are capsid bugs?

Capsid bugs are true bugs, there are many species, most do not damage garden plants and some are predatory. A few feed on plant sap at the shoot tips and on flower buds, of a wide range of herbaceous and woody garden plants. These include the common green capsid (Lygocoris pabulinus) and the tarnished or bishop bug (Lygus rugulipennis).

Some capsid bugs have a more restricted host range such as the apple capsid (Plesiocoris rugicollis), which feeds on apple and pear and can damage fruits.

Symptoms

Signs of damage appear from May to early September.

  • As capsid bugs feed, they damage and kill some of the cells where the mouthparts have probed 
  • The leaves near the shoot tips develop many small, brown-edged holes and may be misshapen
  • Affected flower buds, particularly those of fuchsia, may fail to develop, or, in the case of chrysanthemum, dahlia and other daisy-like flowers, open unevenly
  • Apple capsid (Plesiocoris rugicollis) damages the foliage and also feeds on young fruitlets, which results in bumps or raised corky growths developing on the mature fruit. These blemishes are superficial and do not affect the eating and keeping qualities of the fruits. Apple capsid can also affect pear

Control

Non-pesticide control

  • Apple cultivars vary in susceptibility to apple capsid – the fruits of Charles Ross’, ‘Allington Pippin’ and ‘Edward VII’ are some which may be extensively marked by capsid bumps
  • If capsid bugs have been a problem in the past removing weeds which can act as alternative host plants can reduce the problem
  • Removing dead vegetation in late winter may destroy overwintering sites for the tarnished plant bug
  • Tolerate some damage, by the time distorted leaves are noticed it can be too late to take control measures. Vegetables do not need treating 

Pesticide control

  • Inspect the shoot tips of susceptible plants from mid-May onwards, plants can be treated with an insecticide if signs of damage are seen 
  • Organic sprays containing natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Ecofective Bug Killer), are broad spectrum and will kill capsid bugs and other insects. They can be used on ornamental and edible plants. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep capsids in check
  • More persistent broad spectrum insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available
  • Follow label instructions when using pesticides. On edible plants make sure the food plant is listed on the label and follow instructions on maximum number applications, spray interval and harvest interval
  • Apples and pears can be sprayed with some formulations of deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin or acetamiprid shortly after the flowers have fallen, provided the manufactures instructions are followed for the crop
  • Vegetables generally tolerate capsid damage and do not need spraying for these insects
  • Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to danger to pollinating insects
  • Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Download

Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)

Description and Biology

  • Adult capsid bugs are green or brown and up to 6mm long (¼in). Capsid bug wings are folded over the abdomen and have the basal two-thirds coloured and thickened, the outer third is translucent, which shows as a clear diamond-shaped area at the rear end of the insect
  • Nymphs are wingless and generally pale green in colour 
  • Apple capsid overwinters as eggs that are laid in the bark of apple branches and shoots, these eggs hatch in April to May. They become adult in June and July and there is one generation a year
  • Common green capsid overwinters as eggs inserted into a range of trees and shrubs. They eggs hatch in spring and become adults by July. These lay eggs and produce a second generation before the winter
  • The tarnished plant bug overwinters as an adult in sheltered places. They emerge in spring and lay eggs on a wide range of plants. There are two generations a year


Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.